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Appendix I:
Human Rights Watch Letter to Moroccan Ministry of Justice

His Excellency Mr.Mohamed Bouzoubaâ

Minster of Justice

Ministry of Justice



VIA FACSIMILE: 011- 212-37-773-0772

Your Excellency,

As you may know, Human Rights Watch conducted a research mission to Morocco from January 27 to February 13, 2004.  One objective of our visit was to gather information about arrests and trials of terrorism suspects following the Casablanca bombings of May 16, 2003.

As the first anniversary of those terrible events approaches, we wish to express our solidarity with the victims, their families, and all Moroccans who expressed their revulsion at those crimes.  The perpetrators of all such acts must be brought to justice.

At the same time, the mass arrests that followed the attacks gave rise to concerns about ill-treatment and unfair trials, and about Morocco’s compliance with its international human rights commitments in these areas. 

We regret that we did not have the opportunity to meet with you or any other official from the Justice Ministry during our visit, despite our formal request for such a meeting.  We did, however, have the pleasure of being received by Human Rights Minister Mohamed Aujjar on February 5, 2004.

Our purpose in writing to you today is to share our preliminary findings and invite your comments.  We will ensure that our final report reflects pertinent official information, as long as it is received by June 7, 2004.  You are welcome to respond in English, French, or Arabic.

  • Our initial findings point to a pattern of human rights violations committed during the pre-trial and trial phase against suspects accused of being linked to terrorist acts.   In several cases that we studied, there were allegations of physical torture and ill-treatment as well as threats of violence. To the best of our knowledge, these allegations were not investigated by the prosecutor’s office and were not seriously addressed by the trial courts.
  • In some cases the detainees did not have access to a lawyer during the pre-trial proceedings and complained that they were forced to sign forced confessions while blindfolded and unable to read. In several cases, detainees alleged that their statements were falsified. Lawyers described to us how the actual date of arrest was falsified by the police in order to cover up garde à vue detentions that lasted long beyond the period allowed by law. 
  • We have also documented cases in which detainees were blindfolded during their entire interrogation as well as during their first encounter with the public prosecutor representative, and thus answered questions without understanding that they had passed into a new phase of the judicial process.
  • In some cases detainees said they were transferred to the interrogation and security compound in Temara where they were subject to abusive methods of investigation. The existence and the use of an unacknowledged place of detention would be a violation of both Moroccan and international law. 
  • In some cases, we found that lawyers were not allowed to call defense witnesses or to cross-examine witnesses and testimonies that were used by the prosecution and the investigative judge to charge defendants.

The following are summaries of few cases that highlight the above mentioned violations of basic human rights:

  • Abdelghani Ben Taous, 45 years old and disabled, who was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison for terror charges, cites numerous instances of torture and sexual abuse during his detention.  He alleged that while he was in Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST) custody during the month of June 2003 in the Temara secret detention center, security forces beat him with a stick and tortured him with electric shocks. The physical abuse he described also included being suspended from the floor, choked and slapped on the face. Ben Taous stated that he was deprived of sleep and that lights were left on in his cell both day and night.  (Court File Number: 22-2003-622, Rabat Criminal Appellate Court)
  • Ben Taous’ lawyer also alleged that he has been a victim of sexual abuses and sodomy by several security officials during the same period. Security forces stripped him, and one of his torturers twice inserted his fingers in Ben Taous’ anus and threatened to rape him.

    Ben Taous’ lawyer told HRW that his client was deprived of counsel for a significant period of time and forced to sign a confession. His lawyer, who was hired by family members, could not see him for 18 days. On July 23, 2003, DST took Ben Taous from pre-trial detention in Salé prison to the DST interrogation compound at Temara after he refused to sign a retroactive agreement consenting to a search of his house that had already taken place. During his second detention at Temara, he was again subject to torture. His lawyer was able to see him on July 31, 2003, only after the head of the Rabat Bar intervened.

    At the trial, Ben Taous’ lawyer raised complaints of torture and forced confession.  His lawyer also noted that the date of his arrest was forged and changed to June 23, 2003.  However, the trial judge ordered no investigation, and the court record does not accurately and adequately reflect these complaints.

  • Danbat Moustafa, 33 years old and from Casablanca (prisoner number 26385 in Kenitra prison, where he is now serving a life sentence), turned himself in to the police on June 16, 2003. He alleged that he was sent to the secret security compound of Temara and held there for five days, where interrogators stripped him and inserted a bottle into his anus and threatened to rape him. According to his wife, Khadija, marks of torture and abuse were still apparent when her husband first appeared in Court, limping and unable to sit normally. The judicial panel refused the lawyer’s request to investigate these allegations of torture and to allow a medical expert to examine his client.

  • Ahmad Chikou, who was arrested on June 6, 2003 in Casablanca, said that during his interrogation he was blindfolded and that he was forced to sign a false statement that he had never read before. His interrogators threatened to rape his wife. The police recorded his date of his arrest as July 20, 2003, rather than the true date of June 6, in order to cover up the illegally long garde à vue detention. (Court File Number: 22-03-687, Rabat Criminal Appellate Court).

  • Abderrezaq Ertaoui, who was arrested on May 18, 2003 and sentenced on August 18, 2003 to 30 years by the Casablanca Criminal Appellate Court (and currently held in Kenitra prison), alleged that while in police custody, he was blindfolded and pressured to sign his statement. He also claimed that he was stripped, tortured by electroshocks, and deprived of sleep. (Court File Number: 26406/03, Casablanca Criminal Appellate Court). 

  • Aziz Chafai, who was arrested in his house in Casablanca on May 18, 2003, had no access to a lawyer during his pre-trial proceedings. The first time he saw a lawyer was after the investigative judge concluded his investigation report. Aziz’ lawyer, Maitre al-Ftouhi Abd al-Haq, said that his client was held in incommunicado detention with no access to a lawyer until he was brought before a trial panel. The trial panel refused to call witnesses and accepted all the findings that were made by the investigative judge. The lawyer also complained that he could not freely meet and talk to Aziz due to the common practice of close surveillance of lawyer-defendant meetings. Aziz told his lawyer that he knew he was brought before an investigative judge only by reading the sign that was on the judge’s table and that he was not told about his right to have an attorney at this stage of the investigation. (Court File Number: 840/2003, Casablanca Appellate Criminal Court).

  • Yazghi Abdelhamid, a 46 year-old accountant from Casablanca, was arrested on June 11, 2003, but the recorded date of his arrest was June 27, 2003. He told his family that he spent 17 days in Ma’arif detention in Casablanca and 5 days in the Temara compound, where he was tortured and ill-treated, and blindfolded when he was interrogated.

  • Mohammad Shadeli and Nuredin Elgerbaui were arrested by the DST on July 17, 2002 in their homes in Casablanca, and were sentenced to twenty years on July 11, 2003. According to their lawyer, they were held for ten days in Temara, where they were beaten by sticks, tortured by electric shocks, endured verbal humiliation and were forced to take off their clothes. (Court File Number: 2003/5/744, Casablanca Criminal Appellate Court). 

  • Mohammad Hassan Kittani was tried for inciting violence and for being one of the spiritual leaders who motivated and encouraged the suicide bombing on May 16, 2003. Kittani’s defense lawyers asked the trial panel to call the twenty five persons who were also accused of terror charges in separate files and whose testimonies the prosecution and the investigative judge used as the only source of evidence to support the charges against Kittani. The trial panel decided to postpone its decision on calling the prosecutor’s witnesses and instead ordered testimony from Kittani first. After hearing Kittani’s denial of all accusations against him and of any link to the twenty five persons who allegedly mentioned his name in their statements, the judicial panel once again refused to call these men as witnesses and asked the prosecution and the defense to argue on the substance of the charges. Subsequently, Kittani’s defense lawyers decided to withdraw from the case, explaining that they could not properly defend their client without being able to call and cross-examine the prosecution’s or defendant’s own witnesses. Over Kittani’s objections, the Court appointed a state lawyer to defend him, and gave the lawyer only a few hours to prepare. On September 25, 2003, Kittani was convicted and sentenced to 20 years. The Court explained in its verdict that based on article 288 of the Criminal Procedure Code, it had the power to establish its conviction, inter alia, based on statements from other defendants that were taken by the judicial police in separate but related criminal proceedings, without the need to call those defendants and to hear their testimonies in Court.  (Court File Number: 2003-5-907, Casablanca Criminal Appellate Court)     

Our preliminary findings also include cases of Moroccans living abroad who were sent back to Morocco and upon their arrival were held without due process and with no judicial oversight for several months. For example, Azeddine Sadraoui, Noureddine Lemor and Nabil Hamrad, three Moroccans citizens who were deported from Italy to Morocco on November 19, 2003, were secretly and illegally held incommunicado for two months, without charge and with no legal or judicial process. During their detention, they had no access to a lawyer. Neither their lawyer nor their families could obtain information about their location and their legal status. Even after their release from detention, they continue to be subject to strict surveillance by the security services.

We would appreciate your comments on any or all of the above-mentioned preliminary findings and cases. We also appreciate receiving more information on the following questions:

  • What is the number of detainees who were arrested by the judicial police or any other security body since May 16, 2003, in connection with terrorism charges? What is the number of the detainees who have faced terrorism charges and have been brought to trial since May 16, 2003?   

  • What measures, including investigations and disciplinary measures, have been taken since May 16, 2003 to deter and punish physical abuse committed by members of security forces against persons in custody?

I thank you for your cooperation and welcome any questions or comments you may have. I look forward to your thoughtful and timely reply.


Sarah Leah Whitson

Executive Director, Middle East & North Africa Division

CC: The Honorable Aziz Mekouar, Moroccan Ambassador to the United States

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